Many summers ago I met a youth pastor at Crossroads Summer Camps who watched over a flock of excited and unique teenagers, many of whom did not know Jesus or only recently believed in him. The youth pastor explained the heart of their ministry and their passion for helping teenagers understand the love of God. His name was Rob Shepherd and he became a dear friend and someone I admired for not only saying spiritually healthy things but living by them as well. During our busy prep season, Rob used to send the Crossroads staff a fun care package full of candy and knick-knack toys. After he planted a church and became a HEAD PASTOR we never received anymore candy which is in keeping with strict reverend protocol. In addition to being a former youth pastor, planting his own church, and keeping a blog, Rob and I also have in common the release of our first books this summer. Here's an interview I did with him for you to get to know him and so I could support a fellow first-time author I believe in:
Tell us about your calling to be in vocational ministry: when and how did it develop and what led you to planting a church?
When I was a junior in high school I attended a very boring summer camp. I don’t remember anything the speaker said. God didn’t move in my life. I zoned out completely the entire week until the last sentence on the last night. The speaker did an alter call for anyone being called to ministry. I don’t have a fat clue why my brain zoned in at that moment but after I heard him a still small voice in my head said, “This is what you are going to do for the rest of your life.” I hope that still small voice was God. It was still and small but really loud at the same time. That probably makes no sense but that’s what it was. I told that voice no. I didn’t want to go into ministry. I had zero interest in it. Over the next year the voice wouldn’t leave me alone. I finally surrendered and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been paid to work at a church since I was 18 years old. As far as the church planting thing goes I felt like God was leading me. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to help people take their faith to the Next Level. I felt led to try and create something that would help people fall madly in love with Jesus, learn to love people, and to make a real difference in the world by serving. So that’s what we are now trying to do.
What is your vision or paradigm for your church? What has surprised you the most during the church planting process?
Great question! Our vision is to love Jesus, love people, and make a difference. We want churched people to become disciples. We want the lost to become found. We want everyone who becomes a part of our church to be an owner and not a spectator by rolling up their sleeves and doing the work of ministry. That’s our vision. As far as the thing that surprised me, I was shocked that we started out with as many people as we did. My plan was to start in a house. I did one blog post letting people know what we are doing and from that we had 96 people show up to an interest meeting. From there we had 60 people commit to start the church and one person commit to be a full time staff member for free. She still runs our admin to this day and is a HUGE life saver because admin is my kryptonite. From there we met for 8 weeks doing vision meetings. Since then we’ve grown to 150 hired a full time worship pastor and had an awesome Director of Preschoolers and Kids commit to work full time for free. These people are unlike anything I’ve experienced in ministry. It’s wicked awesome!
When did the itch to write a book develop? What was the most rewarding part of the writing process for you? The most difficult?
The itch started about five years ago. I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know how. I also need deadlines in my life so not having one helped keep this a dream and not a reality. I connected with a guy I met through Twitter who just happened to own his own publishing firm. That lead to a lunch and then I got my deadline to write. The most rewarding part was working with others. I love to write but stink at grammar. I had friends and family proof the book, give ideas, and read it before I sent it to the publisher. The most difficult part was the admin side of the book. I loved writing it but once it was written I wanted to be done with it. It was hard going over and re-writing etc.
Give us the “elevator pitch” for you book, the condensed summary that grabs our attention:
As a Christian I want to live for Jesus, but so often I fall to a deep seeded desire to please people. This book is my story of how I started going down the road of caring more about what Jesus thought about me than people.
Who do you think your book is written for? What kind of impact would you like it to have?
It was written with Christians in mind. Specifically my fellow people pleasers. I would love for whoever reads the book to fall more in love with Jesus. That might sound broad, but I really want whoever gets their hands on this book to find something that makes them laugh and think and then fall in love with Jesus.
Why do you think we as people struggle with transparency and vulnerability so much?
I know for me it’s because I want people to like me. Fear tells me that if anyone sees the real me they will judge me. What I have found is the complete opposite. When we are real people actually respect it and then open up about their struggles as well. I might get judged for this but I actually learned this from watching the TV edited version of the movie 8 mile. Notice I said TV version so Christians won’t judge me too hard. I’m still a recovering people pleaser. I digress. In the film Eminem wins a rap battle by taking away all of his competitions ammunition about himself. He was real and honest and then he dropped the mic like a boss. It inspired me to be real. To be me. To let people see some of my flaws so that they can help me become more like Jesus. Ultimately I’m not interested in having a fake me that’s awesome but a real me that stinketh. I went King James on you there. Sorry. I want my life to look the same no matter where I’m at or who is looking. I want to know who I am in Jesus.
Do you think the Lakers should just tank this next season and get a high draft pick as well as having an insane amount of free agent cash? Do you think it is in Kobe’s DNA to actually tank? Will he pass Kareem’s scoring title? And more importantly, will he get his 6th ring?
Matt, this is a tough one for me. I’ve been a Lakers fan since I was in the third grade. I can’t imagine they would just tank. They have no draft picks next year and I can’t imagine Lebron isn’t going to become a Laker. So basically I think they are going to try to do as good as they can this year and pull in some close to All-Star caliber players to get Kobe his sixth. It wouldn’t surprise me if at the trade deadline they landed someone that can do what Pau did for them years ago. They were in 8th place when he became a Laker and ended up playing in the Finals. I don’t think Kobe can pass Kareem. He would have to play for too long and age isn’t on his side.
You and your wife have twin children. Is it true you’re raising one of them to be a Celtics fan because you like a little more drama around the house?
Matt, you are funny. NO! But God does have a sense of humor by making almost every one of my close friends a Celtics fan. They sure do put a lot of pressure on my kids to go to the dark side.
Tell me what it means to “thaugh.”
One of my blog readers said that’s what I make him do. It’s the combination of the words think and laugh. I liked it so much that it became one of the tag lines for my blog.
Best summer movie you’ve seen so far or one you’re most looking forward to.
I think I’ve seen all the ones I was looking forward to. Before the summer started I was really amp’d to see Man of Steel, Star Trek, Iron Man 3, and Monsters University. The movie that I was surprised to like as much as I did was World War Z. I was shocked that it was as good as it was. I was pretty disappointed by Man of Steel and Iron Man and I never thought that would become my favorite.
You can order Rob’s book, Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You, at this link.